US President Donald Trump stood alone in a rare moment of solitude before the Western Wall on Monday.
He wore a black kippa and placed one hand on the ancient weathered stones, standing there in that pose for half a minute.
When the contemplative moment was over, he placed a note in one of the Wall’s crevices and then walked backward for a few steps.
In this quiet way, with a security helicopter whirling overhead, Trump became the first sitting US president to visit one of Judaism’s holiest sites and Jerusalem’s Old City where it is located.
Its location over the pre-1967 lines makes such a visit potentially complicated, because it could be seen as a sign of US acceptance of Israeli sovereignty over the site.
The US, therefore, did not want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accompany Trump. He was, however, greeted by Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and Western Wall Heritage Foundation director Mordechai Eliav.
Trump and Rabinowitz recited together Psalm 122, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” They also uttered Psalm 121, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?” Rabinowitz said he told Trump how his heroes were those Jews throughout the centuries who had braved both the heat and cold rain and ignored personal danger and persecution to arrive at the Wall at dawn to pray.
The Western Wall, Rabinowitz said, symbolizes both the ancient glory of the Jewish people and its hopes for the future.
After the visit the Western Wall Foundation issued a statement that said Trump’s visit, 50 years after the Western Wall was liberated, is a clear statement of the site’s historical significance.
“Following this visit, we call on everyone to join forces and work for peace among all nations,” the Foundation said, adding that it gave Trump a book of Psalms with his name on it.
In it, Rabinowitz and Eliav wrote the following inscription: “This ancient book will safeguard you, so you can safeguard the entire world. With appreciation and admiration of being the first United States president to visit the Western Wall.”
Separately, Trump’s wife, Melania, and his daughter Ivanka visited the women’s section of the wall, where they, too, put their hands on its stones.
The Israeli media reported that Ivanka shed a tear as she stood there.
After the visit, Education Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted a photograph of Trump at the Western Wall and said, “On behalf of the Israeli people, please recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital. You can do this!”